Thailand’s Titiya Plucksataporn and Anne-Lise Caudal of France set the pace at six under par 65 on the first day of the Finnair Masters in Helsinki.
Plucksataporn, 28, from Bangkok, established the clubhouse lead with an eagle, six birdies and two bogeys on a warm opening morning at Helsinki Golf Club.
Caudal was the best of the late starters after firing six birdies on the back nine. The 27-year-old from Ciboure, who captured her sole Ladies European Tour title at the 2008 Portugal Ladies Open, rattled in four straight birdies from the 10th and picked up further shots at the 15th and 17th holes.
Caudal said: “I started with nine pars on my front nine so I was struggling and looking to make some birdies. I had six birdies on the back nine and just played much better.
“I was patient because it was not easy with the wind. I put the ball pretty close and just made the putts. I was a bit lucky on 15 because I made a 42 metre shot which was good for the birdie, so I was happy.”
After two top-ten finishes this season, she explained that her motivation is to qualify for the Evian Masters presented by Societe Generale, taking place from July 21-24.
“I’m playing good this year. I had two good results in Morocco and Holland but I’m looking for a really good result and a win because I didn’t win since three years now. I want to play the Evian Masters in two weeks so I’m looking for a good result,” she said.
Joint leader Plucksataporn had a career best finish of fifth at the 2007 EMAAR-MGF Ladies Masters in India while a tie for 25th at the Portugal Ladies Open in mid-May is her best result this year.
She eagled the par-five 14th, after holing out from 120 yards using at eight-iron, but said: “The putting was the key. I made them all today; it was a very good round and unexpected. I had a new putter this week, so maybe that helped.”
Using a PING Anser putter, she made 27 putts including a testing 15 yarder downhill at the eighth hole.
Ladies European Tour rookie Rachel Jennings, from Stoke-on-Trent in England, lies in third place two strokes behind.
The 22-year-old, who finished third at the Allianz Ladies Slovak Open a month ago, began with a double bogey six on the first hole after hitting her second shot into the bunker right of the green, but she recovered with four birdies and an eagle on the card.
She eagled the par-five 17th after hitting her second shot to within a foot of the hole using a nine-iron. Jennings said: “It started a bit dodgy: I had a double after a few loose shots but my putting was solid all day; I didn’t really miss anything. I eagled the 17th which always helps.”
England’s Rebecca Hudson was joined on three under 68 late in the day by Christel Boeljon of the Netherlands, while eight players are a stroke further back.
The 2010 champion, Lee-Anne Pace of South Africa, managed a round of one under par 70, despite suffering from a cold and shared 14th place.
Pace said: “It started off not great; I was two over after eight holes, birdied nine, bogeyed 10, birdied 11 and 12 and got it going. Unfortunately three putted number 13 for par but had it going, I started hitting it really well, birdied 17. I think with two days to go you never know what happens.”
The 2008 event champion, Minea Blomqvist from Finland, opened with a three over par 74 and will need a solid second round to make the cut to the leading 50 professional players and those tied.